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Business

Reddit is still a mess

Reddit's battling massive user dissatisfaction at the same time it's running r/place, a cooperative event for users.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Edited Reddit image composition

One section of r/place reads, "Never forget what was stolen from you!" to promote the community r/Save3rdPartyApps.

Edited screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Reddit has been a mess since mid-June when thousands of communities went dark for 48 hours to protest the company's API pricing changes. Now, it's a pixelated mess. 

The site users have been vocal in their disagreements about the changes to Reddit's API pricing and the company's handling of the situation. Many communities have tried to continue to stay dark or private, making these communities inaccessible to their members. This has resulted in Reddit removing the moderators and taking over the moderation of these subreddits to reopen them, as happened this week with r/MaleFashionAdvice.

Also: Reddit is in danger of a death spiral

Now, the company's decided it's a good time to bring back an event it had reserved for April Fools' in years past, r/place. 

This is the third time r/place has opened to Reddit users. It works as a blank canvas where each user can add a single pixel every five minutes. The idea is to collaborate as a community to create a digital artwork composed of over 16 million pixels representing Reddit users and communities. In past years, subreddits would ideate what they'd draw and swarm to r/place to cover an area of the canvas. 

This year was no different, but the message was quite clear from many users on r/place. As soon as the canvas went live, users began writing messages insulting the CEO, Steve Huffman, whose username is u/spez. One subreddit, r/Save3rdPartyApps, added an area that says, "Never forget what was stolen from you!"

Also: Threads is losing active and engaged users. I think I know why

Other art that isn't part of the protest against Reddit soon started popping up, and the canvas now more closely resembles that of previous years, with flags from different countries worldwide, fictional characters, and logos -- as well as the occasional profanity directed at the CEO mixed in.

Reddit launched r/place during the same week it forcibly took over the community of r/MaleFashionAdvice, the largest subreddit that remained closed as part of the protests. The account u/ModCodeofConduct took over the subreddit, which has 5.4 million members, opened it back up, and posted a request for new moderators. 

Reddit's changes to its API access program, which resulted in the demise of several popular third-party apps, went live on July 1. As the deadline loomed, many of the site's users and moderators decided to protest. This led to over 9,000 subreddits becoming inaccessible to users by going private for 48 hours in mid-June -- some going dark indefinitely.

Also: Bluesky vs Threads vs Mastodon: If you leave Twitter, where will you go?

The changes in July made access to Reddit's API too expensive for smaller third-party apps to maintain operations. This forced some to shut down, like Apollo, ReddPlanet, Sync, and BaconReader. These third-party apps were popular because many were available before an official Reddit app was created in 2016. They also offered accessibility options for the visually impaired that the official app doesn't.

The protestors' goal was to get Reddit to negotiate with these smaller developers to keep the apps alive. However, Steve Huffman, Reddit CEO, was averse to talks and leaned towards waiting out the protest.

The website continues to be a battlefield for users and moderators. Still, amidst the rubble, it seems one message prevails: The community is largely powerless in its efforts to move Reddit to negotiate. The third-party apps users were trying to protect were shut down at the beginning of July, and Huffman and Reddit leadership haven't had to budge an inch.

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